Local News

Doctor in fatal DWI crash had BAC three times illegal limit

Posted February 17, 2011 11:12 a.m. EST
Updated February 24, 2011 9:45 a.m. EST

— A former Raleigh facial plastic surgeon on trial in the drunken driving death of a ballerina more than a year ago had a blood-alcohol concentration three times the per se legal limit, an emergency room doctor testified Thursday.

Dr. Herbert Myles told jurors that Dr. Raymond Cook was “clinically intoxicated” with a 0.245 reading when he arrived at WakeMed North Hospital on Sept. 11, 2009. Cook submitted to additional testing, which confirmed the result.

Under North Carolina law, a driver is considered impaired with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08.

Cook is on trial for second-degree murder, driving while impaired and felony death by vehicle in a fatal crash that killed 20-year-old Elena Bright Shapiro at the intersection of Strickland and Lead Mine roads in Raleigh.

Defense attorneys haven’t denied that Cook had been drinking but contended in opening statements this week that he’s innocent of second-degree murder because of his attempt to intervene in the care for Shapiro after the crash.

Earlier Thursday, Simon Capell, an emergency medical technician who was first at the wreck scene, testified that as he evaluated Shapiro's condition, Cook yelled out that she needed to be taken from the car.

"My initial reaction was to become annoyed, because I needed some help," he said. "I turned and said, 'Well, some help would be nice.'"

Capell said that once he took Shapiro out of the car, he began chest compressions and that Cook then jumped in to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

"To be honest, it came across that it was probably a layperson doing it," Capell said. He said Cook ignored signs that the mouth-to-mouth wasn't working and didn't respond to suggestions to reposition her airway.

"At this point, I was becoming an emotional mess," Capell said. "I had no equipment. I had no way to change the outcome – utter sense of helplessness."

Cook backed off when an EMS crew arrived, and Capell helped them. As they lifted Shapiro on a stretcher, he said, Cook again told them to resume compressions.

"I'm thinking, 'Who is this guy?'" said Capell, adding that Cook later identified himself as a physician.

He, another EMT, Frances Smith, and an emergency room nurse, Susan Mason Bryant, each testified that Cook had a strong or moderate odor of alcohol.

"I asked him directly, 'Brother, have you been drinking?'" Capell said. "He paused, turned, looked at me and said, 'No.'"

Capell said he became so visibly upset that other EMS workers separated him from Cook.

"After that, my blood pressure is starting to rise," he recalled. "After you work a situation like this, a senseless death, and you begin to get a sense of what happened – you have to control yourself."

Smith, who treated Cook at the wreck scene, said he initially denied drinking but later said he had two drinks while golfing earlier in the day.

"He said specifically, 'Oh, but that was hours ago,'" she said.

Bryant said that Cook initially resisted having a blood test done after he was admitted to the hospital and that he told a doctor, "'No one's proven me drunk yet.'"

Prosecutors have contended that because Cook had been drinking, the wreck was not an accident.

For a second-degree murder conviction, state law requires that prosecutors prove that a suspect acted with malice and should have known that his actions could kill or injure someone.